Summer of Covid, part 2

During the last week of July, when Dan and I realized half the summer was over and we had not done anything notable, Dan suggested we go away for a few days. I agreed that we needed a getaway, and I was desperate to get over my current anxiety (Summer of Covid, part 1), so I was all for it. He booked a hotel for us to stay in Boston for a couple of nights and we were set to visit a museum and take a “Ghosts and Gravestones” walking tour. We were finally doing something!

But on the morning of our trip, Dan dejectedly told me that he was not feeling well enough to go (he was still experiencing symptoms of fatigue and muscle weakness from having Covid). It wasn’t until then that I realized just how much I had been looking forward to our excursion. As I packed my bags the night before our pending road trip, I envisioned us relaxing by the pool. Now, that vision was quickly slipping away. There would be no fun and interesting photos taken during any tour. And it saddened me to know that the summer dress I had packed  for a night out on the town would not be worn– nor would any other outfit for that matter. Dan knew I was disappointed, and with a pained expression in his eyes, he genuinely apologized. While I understood that he had no control over his symptoms, I was still heartbroken inside.

I think Dan was trying to keep a positive outlook when he said, “Thank goodness you’re a homebody.” Yes, I’ve always been more inclined to enjoy my time at home than attend any particular event but I didn’t see it that way when he said it. I felt that statement was completely irrelevant and that it negated my excitement for a necessary getaway. I had been indoors for the first part of the summer, overcoming a most surprising case of social anxiety. I was finally ready to experience the fresh, warm air, feel the hot sun on my skin and enjoy a different setting with my husband. So no, it wasn’t a good thing that I was a homebody. 

I quickly felt an urgency to leave the apartment.  I didn’t want to be home thinking about the trip that didn’t happen; that was just too depressing. Not only was I too upset to just stay home, I suddenly felt claustrophobic, trapped in a space I didn’t know I was starting to resent. Being in the darkened apartment all summer was causing a restlessness inside me, bringing me down with lethargy and a desire to do nothing all day but sit in front of the TV or play mind-numbing games on my cell phone. I was angry for not having pushed myself out of the slump that defined my overall summer disposition. I had no idea what it was actually doing to me until I was faced with the reality and the understanding that I needed to get out.

In an effort to make it up to me, Dan did take me out that evening to a local restaurant where we enjoyed our meals outdoors. It was so lovely to be outside beyond my neighborhood and it reaffirmed my feeling ready to be among people again. I believe it also helped Dan conquer his symptoms of fatigue– if only for a little while until his symptoms would hit him again.

Around the second week of August, Dan had a few days where he was feeling pretty good, so we decided to give it another shot. We drove down to Boston, and spent a couple of nights in a hotel downtown. The following week, we spent two days and one night at a beach club in Oakdale, LI, and spent a day and night out in the Hamptons. Between participating in a couple of amusing and engrossing walking tours, pleasant visits with friends, and relishing the appetizing meals at outdoor restaurants, we still found plenty of time to relax so that Dan would not feel too fatigued. 

Upon reflection, a thought came to mind. Only a few weeks before, I was feeling apprehensive about being in the same space with others after testing positive with the coronavirus, so my feelings of disappointment for not going away– and finally being able to enjoy myself once we did get away– were actually very good signs that my anxiety was over! We’ve since had picnics at the park and enjoyed a few  afternoons at Rockaway Beach. These were not major excursions, but they were so much better than staying indoors, watching the summer pass us by. Yes, I was truly grateful for the little that we had done together. 

Fun times at the park.

Summer of Covid, part 1

During the last week of July, it suddenly dawned on me that the summer was halfway over and Dan and I had not done anything significant! Every day was spent indoors. I worked on my novel and took some online writing and book publishing classes. Dan worked almost every day preparing for Back2Levittown, his weekly Friday night show on Facebook live; we were both being very productive. But between Dan’s chronic fatigue due to Covid and my anxiety about going outside, we had not done one memorable thing.  

Yes, anxiety. Let me explain.

A week after Dan had tested positive for Covid back in June, my second test came back positive as well. But mine might as well have been a false positive because I didn’t have any symptoms whatsoever. I continued exercising every day with no feelings of fatigue and I never developed any type of fever. I maintained a positive attitude throughout, feeling that I wouldn’t develop any symptoms and that I had somehow beat the virus. Someone from the NYC Test and Trace Corps called me every day to check on my symptoms but my answers were always the same: I felt absolutely fine!

I did quarantine myself for the mandatory two weeks. Most of that time, Dan was away, quarantining himself at a Covid facility, so I was all alone. When I needed them, my sister was sweet enough to bring me groceries and she left them at the door so that we would not be in contact.  

When I was first told that I tested positive for Covid, I was upset that now I was a part of that statistic. I quickly got over that when day after day, I continued to feel good. However, when Dan came back and my quarantine was over, I wasn’t moved at all to finally go outside and experience the summer air in all of its glory. Instead, I felt nervous about going out. This was strange to me because the entire time beforehand, I was certain that I could not and would not be affected by this thing. But now, my thoughts about it became irrational. 

I felt that I might contaminate others just by being in their presence—mask and all. I had self-quarantined for two weeks so I knew I could no longer be contagious; but the thought was still there. I also felt that no matter how responsible I was with a mask and gloves, I would somehow contract the virus again. In my irrational mind, the world outside was a germ infested Petri dish and we were the bacteria unable to resist our attraction to one another. I didn’t want to take a chance in the laundry room in the basement of my building; the thought of going down there somehow frightened me. I also avoided supermarkets altogether. In fact, I was quite content to stay home if it meant that I would not be in contact with anyone. The only time I felt comfortable leaving my apartment was during my morning walks to the park with Dan, which continued as soon as my quarantine was over. Our early morning walks are the perfect opportunity to get some fresh air and exercise without running into so many people. 

As July came to an end, I suddenly realized that the summer was passing us by with nothing to show for it. I saw the second half of the summer going in the same momentum and slowly started warming to the idea of finally getting over my anxiety. I didn’t want the summer to just be the summer of Covid. I wanted to experience more. There was no way that we were the only ones missing out on a memorable summer because of this virus. And I’m sure there were plenty of people doing enjoyable and exciting activities while remaining safe. Why weren’t we a part of that crowd?

I had to remind myself that Dan and I were quite fortunate. There were so many people who spent this summer in hospital beds perhaps not even awake or aware of their unfortunate situation. I thought of the people whose very lives were lost as a result of this horrifying virus. I thought about the loved ones of those who sadly succumbed to this thing. What about their summer plans? Covid ruined a lot of plans and a lot of lives and realizing how fortunate Dan and I are as two people who tested positive, I was ready to make something more of my summer. With that resolve, my anxiety had finally gone away; and the following week, Dan and I were going away ourselves…

How Corona Invaded Our Marriage

After being painstakingly careful over the last few months regarding where we went, what we brought into our home, and wearing masks and gloves, Dan somehow contracted the coronavirus. Before going in for a routine medical procedure, Dan’s doctor told him he had to take the COVID-19 test. That was on Monday, June 15. On Tuesday, he received the phone call from his doctor with the unfortunate news. But what WASN’T unfortunate was the fact that he didn’t exhibit any of the life-threatening symptoms that we have come to know the disease can cause. There were two symptoms Dan had: extreme fatigue and muscle weakness. We were both thankful that his symptoms weren’t worse.

But now that we knew he tested positive, the question was whether I had it too. So, off to the nearest hospital I went, that very afternoon in order to be tested. And what an unpleasant experience it was! A long swab was inserted into each nostril, deep into the nasal cavity. I squealed in discomfort as the nurse performed the five-second test that had me on my tiptoes, as if that would somehow prevent the swab from going deeper into my nasal area. Approximately 20 hours later, I received the news that I had tested negative for the coronavirus. A part of me was relieved. But I have to admit, another, larger part of me was disappointed. Let me explain.

Both Dan and I were feeling fine, with the exception of Dan’s extreme fatigue. If I had tested positive with no symptoms, then the easy solution would be for us to remain quarantined together for two weeks.

But because I tested negative, Dan was extremely concerned about infecting me with it. I have a preexisting lung condition that made contracting the virus a very scary threat. 

He strongly suggested I go stay with my sister while he quarantined himself in our apartment. But who’s to say my sister didn’t have it herself? She isn’t as fortunate as Dan and I are. Being teachers, we continue receiving our paychecks while working from home. My sister, on the other hand, has to go into work daily, and is in contact with a number of people who may be unknowingly spreading the disease, even while taking the necessary precautions.

As a result, Dan stayed in our bedroom while I continued to do my remote teaching in the living room. We were still about two weeks from the last day of school so I was a bit on edge with the grading of final assessments and revisions and attending staff meetings. But because Dan quarantined himself in the bedroom, he wanted me to cook his food and leave it on a small table outside the bedroom door. I was dumbfounded when I received a text with his order of eggs with salami and toast, butter and coffee. What was happening? Why was I suddenly his waitress? He was physically fine!!! It wasn’t like he was bedridden!! And I had already been exposed to him, so what difference did it make? I sent him a polite reply regarding the amount of pressure I was under with work and asked if we could just switch rooms while he made himself breakfast. His next text pretty much told me that if I would not respect the fact that he was quarantined, then I needed to go to my sister’s place. It was on!!! In the middle of my session with my students, I furiously closed my laptop and started packing my things to leave, out of anger more so than circumstance. As I gathered my clothing and other necessities, Dan stepped into the kitchen to pack some food for me. I said nothing to him. He held the door open for me, and as I exited, he told me he loved me. My response? “Bye.”

I was livid!! I walked out of the apartment building, a bag lady of sorts, with my laptop in its own special case, a tote bag overflowing with my clothes and necessities and the heavy plastic shopping bag Dan filled with salad, fruit, a package of ground turkey and other groceries. I arrived at my sister’s, feeling guilty for barging in on her private space and feeling saddened that Dan and I had argued. A few hours away from Dan and a lonely night in my old bedroom helped me to gain a better perspective of what transpired that afternoon. Although I held on to my belief that if Dan was going to infect me, it would have happened already, I did start to see and understand his mindset.

The man was freaking out. He had just tested positive for a virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of people already- I’m sure there was an incredible amount of anxiety that came with news like that. And because he was not experiencing life-threatening symptoms, I considered him fine. But what I didn’t take into account was the fact that he wasn’t feeling 100% and that’s what mattered. I was afraid that just because he tested positive, he would start believing that he had symptoms, much like a hypochondriac. Whether he imagined the symptoms or not, his extreme fatigue was very real to him and I was discounting his feelings just because he wasn’t on his deathbed. He tried to make me see that as his wife, I should have shown more concern for him and his new situation.

He, in turn, failed to understand that I was no safer at my sister’s place than I was at our apartment. What if I would have remained negative but by going to my sister’s I contracted the virus? Or worse! What if I tested a false negative and then inadvertently infected my sister?! It was irresponsible of him to insist I go to my sister’s and it was even more irresponsible of me to take that chance just because I still had the key to my old apartment. And I also wanted him to understand that his food request felt quite demeaning and inconsiderate at a time when I told him about the tension I was under due to work. Perhaps seeing him walking around seemingly fine moments before he received the news clouded my judgement of the situation, where I simply did not take his diagnosis very seriously. Needless to say, neither one of us let go of what we believed was right.

The very next day, I sent a text to Dan, telling him that I was coming back home, and he did not fight me on it. I stepped off of the elevator to find taped to the door a “welcome home” drawing. I smiled, pulling out my phone to take a picture of it before unlocking the door to go in. We stayed apart. He was by the bedroom door and I was still in the foyer. He sighed before saying, “I’m sorry for the way I behaved.”

“Dan,” I said as I closed my eyes, “I’m so sorry too.” That would have been the moment we hugged it out, but there was no hugging allowed at this time.

The next few days, I was happy to prepare some of his food and place it outside the bedroom door. I gladly slept on the couch in the living room because that meant I could watch TV “in bed”. We marked paths in the apartment where we each would take in order to avoid each other. Whenever he stepped out of the bedroom, we both wore our masks. Each time I collected his dirty dishes, I put on gloves and a mask. By the end of the week, he decided that he was going to stay at a nearby hotel that had become a Covid-19 facility where people who tested positive with very few symptoms could quarantine themselves. And on Saturday afternoon, with his bags packed and his trusted guitar, he left for the facility, where he would stay for the next nine days. I was grateful to him for leaving the comfort of his home just to make sure that I stayed safe.

While quarantining at home since March gave us the opportunity to become closer because we were spending so much time together, one phone call with news of a result caused a temporary rift in our relationship. And it wasn’t just the diagnosis. It was our own beliefs and personalities that allowed the coronavirus to invade our marriage. We both acted impulsively, not giving much thought to the fact that I potentially put myself in danger by going over to my sister’s. When we gave ourselves time to think and consider the situation, we were able to come together to create a solution that worked for the both of us. I think we both came away from this experience understanding that remaining calm in any given situation is key to handling anything that threatens to invade our marriage.

The Importance of Spousal Support

I’ve always been the type of person who prefers to stay home on any given occasion—a homebody. So, when this new directive to stay home was put upon us as a way to minimize the spread of COVID-19, I was quite fine with it. In fact, I believed it would not be a problem for me. But something changed a couple of weeks ago. 

For those of you who do not know, I am a high school English teacher with five classes of students. When remote learning began almost 4 weeks ago, I would wake up when it was still dark outside to prepare my lessons. Then, for approximately 6 hours straight I would “teach” and grade assignments, not giving myself a proper break or rest period between my classes.  On some days, there were phone and video conferences to attend. By the end of the “school day”, I was mentally exhausted, my eyes were strained, and I found myself always feeling irritable. That was only after 2 weeks of remote teaching! 

It wasn’t until the third week that I realized I was terribly depressed. Every day was all about my lessons, interacting with my students, and grading their work. I stopped communicating with Dan and I stopped taking care of myself, as my weekly hair and nail care regimen fell to the wayside. I stayed in my pajamas all day and ate junk food on a consistent basis. And when I noticed I had gained a little weight despite my daily exercise, I started to feel extremely sorry for myself.

A supportive phone call from my cousins and sister helped me put things in perspective and they gave me very useful tips that I used to balance my workday. But the ongoing support from my husband, I believe, prevented me from having a nervous breakdown. I was doing so much for work, trying to “get ahead” of the never-ending flood of work that teachers are known to have. And now, it felt like I had even more work just to ensure that students did not “disappear” during class. Also feeling overwhelmed with making sure all of my students understood the material I was giving them and finding new ways to convey that information to them, I was doing way too much and Dan saw that. If it wasn’t for his quiet support, I really believe I would have started down a dark path of self-destruction. 

Because Dan does not have a schedule like mine, he promptly started taking care of things around the apartment so that I didn’t have any more to do. He made the bed, prepared our lunch, went to the supermarket, made sure I stayed hydrated and continually reminded me to take breaks and move around once in a while. Even on days when food did not interest me, he made sure I ate a little something. And I was very aware of his support. He never made me feel ridiculous for doing too much, understanding that my way of teaching is very different from his. It wasn’t a discussion, I didn’t tell him to do these things; he just knew to do them. 

After a particularly hard day one afternoon, I told him that I usually watch Disney movies when I’m feeling low. So, he declared that every day from now on, we’ll watch a different Disney movie to unwind, which was a fun addition to our daily routine.

And perhaps once or twice a week, at Dan’s request, I venture outside the apartment to go for a walk with him. I do prefer to stay inside and not bother with the gloves and the mask and the washing of the hands when coming back inside. But I know that it is important to get some fresh air. And I do always feel somehow refreshed on our return.

The past few weeks, more than any other time, I came to learn and understand the power and importance of spousal support. I believe my depression would have worsened within the past couple of weeks if it had not been for the way Dan chose to help me through it. Of course, the feelings of being overwhelmed have not completely disappeared and every once in a while, my situation has me feeling a little distressed. What I do then is think about how fortunate I am that I have my health, my family and friends, and that I am still able to work and get paid during this challenging time. And most of all, I’m thankful for a loving, understanding and supportive partner.

Love in the Time of Corona

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The coronavirus has undoubtedly planted fear and anxiety into so many people that it’s hard not to bring it up in daily conversation. It has become our greatest enemy, a modern day plague that kicked people into a reality we’ve only read about in fiction or watched in high budget apocalyptic-type films. 

I know of two types of people in this unprecedented time: the people who are overly and somewhat comically anxious, and then the people who feel and believe that as long as we take care of ourselves and maintain a reasonable social distance, we’ll be fine. I’m the latter. But my loving husband Dan—okay, so I know three types of people—is very concerned for our wellbeing. He had heedfully requested I wear a mask to the public school where I work, and is constantly reminding me to wash my hands, especially the moment I get home. He’s keeping himself updated with the news and continues to remind me that, “the coronavirus is a real thing, Cathy.” He’s also mentioned my pre-existing lung condition as a possible health factor. Out of his deep concern for me last weekend he firmly demanded that I not even go in to work on Monday (that was before we got the news that schools would be closed until mid April).

Dan has also considerately taken several trips to Costco and other supermarkets to secure the essentials we’ll need in the forthcoming weeks because “we just don’t know what will happen.” Our freezer and refrigerator are fully stocked with all the proteins and vegetables we’ll need in the coming weeks. Thanks to my sweet and thoughtful husband, our pantry has gotten quite impressive with food staples we know will never spoil.

Dan’s concern for our well being has also humorously resulted in the purchase of more bananas than we can actually consume before they start to over-ripen. “So we’ll just throw it out!” That was his response when I complained about the unused half banana in the fridge he ignored in order to eat a fresh banana in perfect condition.

“Dan!” I replied. “Telling me to throw away a half a banana is like cursing at me!” 

Well, at least he found my hyperbole funny. (Note: I did use some of the over-ripened  bananas the other day to make banana cookies with oats and walnuts, which we thoroughly enjoyed together on the couch as we snuggled like two little lovebirds to watch Netflix.) 

The difference in which Dan and I have reacted to this pandemic was actually made apparent when Dan came home one day this week from the supermarket with a few necessities and a bag of Baked in Brooklyn pita chips. I looked at the bag of chips and, in extreme disappointment said, “What happened to Stacy’s pita chips?” 

“They don’t sell it at Keyfood,” he quickly answered. 

“Yes they do!” I exclaimed. “Dan, that’s where I always buy Stacy’s pita chips!”

He looked at me in disbelief, as if to question why I had the audacity to be picky about chips in the midst of this worldwide uneasiness. 

“Are we really discussing this right now?” he asked.

I quickly realized how childish my concern was but I couldn’t imagine having to consume the dry pita chips that would have to be eaten with hummus in order to find any enjoyment in them rather than the ones that my taste buds crave.

Then he said something to me that was profound. He said, “Cathy, I just want to keep my family safe.” That’s right. This newly married couple that is us does indeed constitute a family and all he wanted to do was to provide it with food and safety. That was comforting. That was love.

So, I let it go. Maybe this was a good thing: I really could use a break from the ingestion of so much junk food anyway. Then, Dan did something that proves that true love in the time of COVID-19 does exist! After work the next day, he stopped by at a supermarket and bought us, among other things, not one, but three bags of Stacy’s pita chips!! 🥰 My hero!!!

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All was right with my world again!

 

I understand that these are trying times and that people’s fear of this deadly virus is real and valid. I’m not trying to minimize the seriousness of this issue. I only wish to provide a bit of humor in its midst. And if you don’t find humor in my little attempt, then at least I tried. And once this blows over, because I truly believe we will get through this with positive results, we can all find something to laugh about in the spike of pregnancies that statistically will occur as is the case in times of crises such as this. 

So let’s do the best we can to not panic and know that we are all doing what we can to help ourselves and each other through this scary pandemic. Reach out to long time friends you’ve lost touch with. Call your loved ones to check in on them. Use FaceTime or some other type of video chat to visually connect with the people you wish you could visit. This is our current reality. And these may be the best ways for us to shower each other with love in the time of corona. 

At Home

It goes without saying that we should feel at our most comfortable in our own homes. I moved from an apartment that I literally felt was my refuge to an apartment that still does not truly feel like my own. 

For the last 15 years, I had been living with my sister in a condominium apartment we purchased together. I loved this apartment and coming home to it. The living room, with it’s hard wood floors, was spacious enough for the two of us to work out together if we chose to, and we often did. The open kitchen provided us with generous counter space and an area where we could both comfortably prepare our meals at the same time. The all white bathroom had what is called subway tiles with a pedestal sink and a shower that had a removable shower gun for convenient rinsing. My bedroom— I spent many many hours in this comforting room that was my solace on many an occasion. I had the room painted a rustic burgundy when we had just moved in and although my sister felt the color was too dark and depressing, I found that it served as a source of peace for me on the days when depression did not want to let me go. This was my home; it was my sanctuary. 

So imagine the heavy heart I carried with me as I said goodbye to my days of living there. Of course I was and am excited to move into my husband’s home, but the melancholy did make its appearance as I packed up all that I needed to take with me to start my life with Dan.

 I moved into an apartment filled with its own history. Compared to my apartment, Dan’s seemed a little cluttered. With quite a few pieces of furniture in the living room and a cramped kitchen, I quickly got used to it. There were even times before we married that I felt more comfortable there than in my old apartment. 

However, something in my mind shifted once I became Dan’s wife. I moved in with Dan and suddenly found myself questioning the art pieces on the wall, the arrangement of appliances in the kitchen and the usefulness of the furniture in the living room. The bookcases suddenly seemed haphazard to me. I must admit, though, that Dan worked very hard to make the bedroom comfortable for me. He cleared a space on one side and suggested we purchase an armoire together, which we did. I later bought a wooden shoe case that holds 36 pairs of shoes. Those two items keep me quite content. 

Then for Thanksgiving, Dan suggested we invite a colleague and his wife over. That’s when it hit me. I didn’t want to entertain anyone in my new home because it was not home to me yet. It was Dan’s home, and I just moved in with my clothes and shoes and little else. Sometimes, I felt more like a visitor using the spare side of the bedroom and spare pieces of furniture. 

Nothing in the apartment except the armoire and shoe case represent me, and those are only functional items. The art that line the walls, though quite fascinating, do not cater to my taste. Nothing on the book shelves represent what I like. The furniture is not the kind I would prefer. That’s when I recognized that my attempt at bringing new furniture in like my shoe case and the armoire was not going to make it feel like home. In an attempt to not offend him, I had not communicated my feelings about this with Dan, so there was no way he could have known that I needed something different. If I were to truly make the space a place of comfort for me, I’d switch out the small glass tables for a wooden coffee table. I’d fill the bookcases with my favorite books that I left behind in my old apartment. I’d find art that both Dan and I can agree on. Storage can serve as a temporary home for the things that are too dear to let go. Still, I think it will take more than just new furniture, the purging of old, and extra storage space to make me feel at home.

I realize now that I want a completely new apartment that Dan and I can furnish and decorate together. An apartment that is as much a merger of our likes as it is of our lives. Just as I purged what I no longer needed in order to move in with Dan, he’ll have to do the same when we decide to buy a place together. I believe it is then I will finally be in a place that will truly feel like my home.

Still Living the Single Life?

Last Sunday afternoon into evening was such an enjoyable time. I met up with my sister

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photo credit: Windau Photography

Carmelle and good friend Eugenia and together we drove into Brooklyn to meet our mutual friend Michele at a movie theatre to see the new film Queen and Slim. It was a special occasion, as we were celebrating Michele’s birthday and she was the one who had suggested the movie (which I highly recommend!). After the movie, we decided we would find an eatery in the neighborhood for dinner. As we sat down in a small Thai restaurant, I texted my husband Dan to tell him that the movie was over, we were now eating and that I should be home by 6:30. He was fine with it.

The food was delicious and as always, we had a great time together catching up, talking about our jobs, our significant others and just life in general. By the time we left the restaurant, it was 6:30! I thought about Dan and the fact that he was expecting me home. Never once did I tell the ladies that we should head out earlier in order for me to keep my word to Dan. I was enjoying my time too much. I texted my husband about an hour later to apologize about my lateness and to tell him I would be home soon. He didn’t respond, which was out of the norm. Perhaps he’s busy, I told myself. But I would soon learn why he didn’t respond…

It was about 10 minutes after 8 when I stepped into the apartment, greeted by a very disappointed husband. The apartment carried the aroma of the dinner Dan had thoughtfully prepared for the two of us. Rice, chicken, carrots, and asparagus— a feast. He had even begun to pack our lunches for the next day before my arrival. But when I came home, he sat down on the couch and, without hesitation, expressed how inconsiderate he thought my behavior was. He had prepared our meals and looked forward to seeing me because we had not seen each other since that morning. But when he got my text that I’d be home later, he lost his appetite and felt too frustrated to even acknowledge my text with a response. He reasoned that our weekdays are so busy that he looks forward to spending time with his wife on the weekends. He reminded me that I didn’t even tell him until the day before that I’d be spending time with friends on Sunday. He felt that I considered him as an afterthought. “You’re still acting like you’re single,” he told me. I was quiet. I had nothing to say because I could very much see and understand his perspective. 

I didn’t think he was being overly sensitive or unfair. He had a right to be disappointed. When I had realized that I’d be longer than I had originally told him, he deserved a phone call, not a quick text an hour later. Most importantly, I should have honored the time I told him I’d be home. If he did that to me, how would I have felt? I can say that I wouldn’t react the way he did, but that’s just conjecture. I don’t really know how I’d feel because I have not yet been put in that position.

I sincerely apologized to him and he hugged me, lovingly accepting the apology. But the experience stayed with me.  A recent acquaintance, who has been married for 15 years, counseled that it will take a long time before Dan and I become one. We both had been single for many years before finding each other and an exchange of vows will not magically change the way we behaved when we were single. We are both making adjustments and that includes being mindful of each other when making plans. I’ve been single for so long with no one else’s schedule to consider other than my sister’s. And she’s the one I always did things with so that was never even an issue. When Dan and I were simply dating, I’d make plans on a regular basis with my sister without conferring with him. The problem is I find myself doing it still. But now that we are married, I understand that it should be very different. I should absolutely consider him when making any plans at all. After all, I am no longer a single woman.

 

The Question of a Woman’s Identity

photo credit: Windau Photography

A Title of Respect

I had a conversation with my cousin Martina who married almost 3 years ago. She shared with me the struggle she had in deciding whether she should take her husband’s name. She spoke of identity, and an important case can be made for that. According to dictionary.com, one of the definitions for identity is the sense of self. We grew up saying, “Yes, that is me” to the mention of our names and perhaps associating the history of our names to what we are about as individuals. It is a part of us, a part of what makes us who we are. And suddenly, because we’ve accepted someone into our lives through the words “I do”, we are told that that person we were all of our lives has now assumed a new identity. In fact, it’s been a long-standing tradition that when the bride and groom are introduced as man and wife (not husband and wife) for the first time, it’s usually Mr. and Mrs. and the groom’s full name. What happened to the wife’s first name? Sure enough, at my own wedding, Dan and I were introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Daniel J. Tighe. In a manner of speaking, my name was pushed aside when I chose to say the words, “I do.”

Is there truly a loss of identity? If one really thinks about it, what does the actual word “Mrs.” mean? Does it allude to the idea of possession– that once we are married, our husbands own us? Dictionary.com defines the word Mrs. as a title of respect prefixed to the surname or full name of a married woman. A title of respect. Does this mean a married woman who does not use this prefix with her husband’s name to represent herself has lost the respect of society or am I taking this interpretation too far? Where does the word Mrs. come from anyway? Is it another title created by a patriarchal society meant to keep women in their place? (The dictionary claims that Mrs. is an abbreviation of mistress and we’ll need a whole other post to discuss that definition.) This is one of the reasons why so many women do make the choice to either hyphenate their names or to simply keep their maiden names. Why should we have to change something we hold dear for a tradition- a tradition that is very slowly fading away?  

When I had that conversation with Martina, I began to wonder: how many newly wed women out there actually do struggle with the name change? Before I got married, this was never even a thought of mine. I simply knew it as tradition— a way of life for so many women within so many cultures. 

What My Name Means to Me

When Dan and I decided to get married, Dan made it very clear to me that he wanted me to take his name. In fact, knowing how I felt about it, he researched how I could add Tighe to my already long name and only use parts of my name when the situation required it. I could legally use my maiden name on some occasions and legally use my married name for others. While I appreciated him taking my feelings into consideration, the idea of adding Tighe to my name was still gnawing at me. 

I have a very distinct memory of me standing with my father outside of our home in Hollis, Queens when I was about 12 or 13 years old. I remember telling him that when I get married, I don’t want to change my name because I find my name to be quite beautiful. Marie-Catheline Jean-François. I couldn’t imagine that Marie-Catheline would sound just as beautiful with any other last name. My father looked to the ground, thoughtfully considered my statement, and, with his hand around my shoulder, told me that I might change my mind when I’m older and that I’d probably have to discuss it with the man I choose to marry. He didn’t say anything about tradition or the need to make my future husband happy by taking his name. Although I’ve always respected his pragmatic response, after all these years, I still hold on to my desire to keep my name after marriage. 

The beauty of my name is not the sole reason why I want to hold onto my last name. Somewhere in my twenties, I started to really understand what my name meant to me. My father is the most important man I had ever had in my life and I would love to honor his memory by keeping his name. And that’s not to discount how important Dan is to me. But my name means something to me. People tell me, “Oh! What a beautiful name! Are you French?” And I proudly respond, “I’m Haitian.” Yes, I understand that I can still be proud of where I’m from without anyone questioning me about my name. And a part of me tells me, okay, you’ve been proud of your name for 45 years, now start being proud of the fact that you are Mrs. Tighe. Dan is in no way trying to get me to denounce my maiden name or my pride. He simply wants me to be proud of yet another aspect of my life. I understand this and I respect it. 

The Girl with Five Names

I actually had fun using the Tighe name to come up with the name of my blog site and I identify myself in my pictures on my first post as Mrs. Tighe to play around with the theme. That was easy to do as a promotional tool. But now that I’ve had time to process the idea of legally adding onto my name, I’m positive I will because it’s something that my husband wants very much. I understand that one’s identity does not need to change as a result of changing or adding onto a name. After reading a first draft of this post to Dan, he made a very interesting point with which I tend to agree. Adding Tighe to my name, he said, is a private and public acknowledgment of our couple hood and of the new family we have become. But my name is already so long; I admit that I feel silly adding Tighe to it, making it longer than necessary (not to mention it doesn’t flow quite the same way). Perhaps I should let go of my feeling silly, knowing that I am not the first person in history to have such a long name. I should simply embrace every single part of my name, each one adding to the unique person that I am. I’m not erasing who I was before I married. This new addition to my name is just a declaration of who I was and who I am now. There will never be another Marie-Catheline Jean-François Tighe and I should be proud of that. 

Tighed the Knot!

Mr. and Mrs. Tighe

Hello! And welcome to my new blog! My name is Cathy Marie. Those of you who know me may already be aware of my previous blog, The True Confessions of a Reluctant Bachelorette (www.thereluctantbachelorette.com). I launched that site in January 2015 and ended it in September of this year with a post that celebrated my marriage to Mr. Daniel Tighe! Thus, the title of my new blog!

I will use this site to write about the things that concern or tickle me about being a newlywed. Topics such as changing my name or moving out of Queens are already brewing in my mind. This site will be a platform where other newlyweds– or even veterans of the married life– may either identify with it or find humor in the things that are not a part of their married experience. This site can also be visited by the single people out there who, upon reading about my experiences, may grow ever more thankful that they are not married themselves. Or my words may inspire the hope of marrying some day. Perhaps, the divorced woman may read my words and celebrate the fact that she is freed from the proverbial ball and chain. And let’s not forget the widow and widower, who may (or may not) find a bit of comfort in reminiscing about the things that they once felt were important when their spouses were still with them.

This site will obviously not be for every one and that’s okay! I just hope whoever happens upon it may take something positive from it and perhaps find it a good read. I want this site to be an insightful look at the married life in the fresh perspective of a newlywed who loves to formulate her thoughts and feelings into words.
Enjoy!

photo credits: Windau Photography
The fun side of Mrs. Tighe!